Words by Emily Shapiro, Photos by Dmitriy Shtifonov and Denis Rossiev—
If you’re a regular Large Up reader, you already know all about our friend Blacka di Danca. We’ve been following this super-talented dancer and choreographer as he travels the world spreading his infectious love of dancehall and good vibes. A frequent visitor to Europe, where he just spent the summer teaching dancehall steps to students from England to Italy, he’s currently in the midst of his fourth trip to Russia.
In each of his classes he makes sure to pay tribute to Jamaican dance originators like Bogle and Shelly Belly, and the steps they brought us. We couldn’t think of a better ambassador for dancehall, and it’s for this reason we are glad to bring you the story of Blacka’s latest excursion—to Siberia.
Not only is Blacka one of few dancehall dancers to touch down in this tundra—where dancehall music and culture have become increasingly popular of late—but for many students, he was the the first person of color they’d ever met. “My club experience in Siberia was one of a kind,” Blacka told us. “Every person that walked by me stared at me as if I was an alien. People came up to me and asked me questions in Russian—my translating friend Maria Malyukova told me that they were saying they’ve never seen a black man before and wanted to take a picture.”
As Blacka explained to us in an e-mail, while many people associate dancehall with violence and aggression, in this case it has bridged a once-unimaginable cultural gap. “Siberia used to be the harshest punishment of imprisonment because of its extremely cold climate which I had the opportunity to experience,” he said. “The fact that now I am teaching dancehall there should be proof enough that dancehall is positive and serves as the bridge between cultures.”
We really couldn’t think of a better individual to break that stereotype and represent the Caribbean internationally than Blacka. We can’t wait to see how large he will take this over time. Blacka has been keeping us up on all the exciting details of his trip, which has included visits to local schools; a residency at A Nice Day, one of Siberia’s newest and biggest dance studios; a full feature in the region’s most popular magazine and a billboard with his face on it. Mad! Take a look below at some of the photos he’s sent us from his travels.